Almost a year and a half ago I was ruminating on the various trilogies and tetralogies and longer series of books which I have begun but not yet finished reading. I called out something like nine specific multi-volume works by various authors and I believe I had a notion at the time that if I forced myself to confront such a tabulation I would bear down and finish some of those series off before embarking on any new ones. Sadly here we are seventeen months later and – sit down, hold on, and brace yourself for the shock to your sensibilities – I have not finished a single one of those nine series. And, of course, equally shockingly, I’ve managed to throw a few more onto the pile as well.
It’s not entirely my fault! (By which I mean I can come up with some moderately diverting excuses.) I did read the second volume of The Kingkiller Chronicles when it was published, and had the third been released yet I no doubt would be able to cross that series off my list, but it hasn’t. Similarly, while I haven’t gotten around to the third installment of the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the author hasn’t finished the fourth and final volume either, so no matter what that would still be hanging around. The third, last Millennium book by Stieg Larsson has been out for a while but I am obstinately waiting for it to be released in paperback like my editions of books one and two already on the shelf at home – but of course Larsson-mania fueled by both the European and American remake films of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have kept the hardcover sales so brisk that paperback publication is still apparently a ways off. Ditto (more or less) A Dance With Dragons, which I await in cheaper format even as HBO’s A Game of Thrones mini-series has kept the hardcover a hot must-have. (And even then we’re still only up to the fifth volume of Martin’s proposed seven installments, so Dance With Dragons thwarts me for the cycle, I guess.) Tracking down Spelljammer D&D novellas and/or James Herriott paperback editions I simply haven’t forced myself to do the advanced legwork for after cursory scans of used bookstores haven’t yielded low-hanging fruit, and I must have for all intents and purposes given up on Adelia Aguilar and Spellsinger because at no point in the past year and a half have I felt especially compelled to even think about cursory scans for them. Oh, and I did read another Dresden Files novel recently, but that open-ended series is more like collecting comic books and probably didn’t belong in the discussion to begin with.
Meanwhile … not too long after that original post’s attempt at self-shaming I bought the first book of Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar tertralogy specifically to read at the beach (and since I haven’t been back to the beach since, I haven’t continued on with that series, but I plan to do both this coming summer). I also recently picked up the first volume of Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy based on its inclusion on these best-of lists. Plus just the other day it was announced that what I had thought was one of the book series I was already done with – Stephen King’s Dark Tower/Gunslinger magnum opus – was going to get an official eighth volume sometime in the spring of 2012, which amazingly pulls a series out of the Finished column and dumps it back into the Unfinished ranks. So instead of bearing down and crossing the finish line on any of my in-progress serials, I’ve seen their ranks increase, even when you factor in totally dropping a couple due to lack of interest. I’m the worst.
But book series aren’t even really the series I wanted to talk about today. Nope, I simply was reminded of the whole “start one series before finishing another” phenomenon because of what’s currently going on with me and the wonderful world of watching tv on DVD.
The Buffy project continues to hang out in its fallback position, which is fine, especially since that’s a re-watch. But there are, at the moment, three other television series I’m working my way through on disc: Smallville, Supernatural and Arrested Development. One of those (Supernatural) is still on the air and you could argue that I’m trying to catch up to the regular broadcasts. (I’m not, but theoretically, you could argue that.) One (Arrested Development) is widely considered to be a triumph that went shamefully unrecognized in its own time, was cancelled too soon, and has developed a staggering cult-following since. (I’m beginning to consider myself part of the cult.) One (Smallville) just wrapped up last year, was beloved by a small but loyal segment and derided by many more, and has been documented in this very blog as being bat-poop insane. All in all, other than the fact that two out of three are genre pieces starring pretty young people which air(ed) on the CW, they don’t seem to have a lot in common.
But there’s a shared time-warpiness to them, too, which I suppose stands out more to me because as a culture we’ve always taken our pop conversation topics more from the world of television than books. Arrested Development’s first season aired from 2003 to 2004, while Smallville’s sixth and Supernatural’s second (the very ones I’m working through now) were on air in 2006 and 2007. So I’m somewhere between four and eight years behind everyone who actually made time to watch these shows when they were intended to be watched, with a triple-reinforced mid-last-decade vibe humming in my brain. Not that this is a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned. Just odd.
And for some reason, tv series seem to occupy more mental space than books (for me, at any rate) to such an extent that I’m already starting to feel like three simultaneous DVD-facilitated intakes of tv series is verging on too much, while I could easily stumble into a few more prose pentads of a thousand pages per volume and not really bat an eye. There are lots of other series I very much want to get a hold of on disc and finally watch for the first time, from The Wire to Frisky Dingo, but I don’t see myself doing that until I finish (or take a break from) the three presently in rotation. An exception of course will be made when HBO finally gets around to putting A Game of Thrones out on dvd, because come ON people, I’m not made of stone.